The pancreas, a six-inch long organ below the stomach, makes enzymes and hormones that aid in digestion and balance the body’s sugar content. Enzymes break down the food we eat as it passes into the intestines and the pancreatic hormones, primarily insulin and glucagon, regulate sugar metabolism.
Chronic pancreatitis occurs when the organ’s digestive enzymes attack and destroy the pancreas itself and nearby tissues, resulting in decreased enzyme and hormone release, scarring, and pain.
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A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic pancreatitis include:
- Gender: male
- Age: late teens to mid-twenties (for alcohol-induced)
- Age: over 50 (for cases of no known cause)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Family history of hyperparathyroidism associated with chronic pancreatitis
Chronic pancreatitis is a risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Pain associated with chronic pancreatitis can be controlled with medications (eg,
). If the pancreas does not secrete enough enzymes, your doctor may prescribe pancreatic enzymes that you will take with meals. In addition, insulin or other medications may be needed to control blood glucose.
Your doctor will advise you to stop drinking alcohol. This is the most important intervention.
Your doctor may also suggest that you restrict the amount of fat in your diet. Pancreatic damage interferes with body's ability to process fats. If you do need to change your diet, it may be hard for you to maintain your normal weight. A registered dietician can work with you and create a healthy meal plan.
If your pain is severe, surgery to drain an enlarged pancreatic duct or remove part of the pancreas may be necessary.